America's Uneven Democracy: Race, Turnout, And Representation In City Politics

America's Uneven Democracy: Race, Turnout, And Representation In City Politics

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Zoltan Hajnal
Cambridge University Press, 12/24/2009
EAN 9780521137508, ISBN10: 0521137500

Paperback, 254 pages, 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.6 cm
Language: English

Although there is a widespread belief that uneven voter turnout leads to biased outcomes in American democracy, existing empirical tests have found few effects. By offering a systematic account of how and where turnout matters in local politics, this book challenges much of what we know about turnout in America today. It demonstrates that low and uneven turnout, a factor at play in most American cities, leads to sub-optimal outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities. Low turnout results in losses in mayoral elections, less equitable racial and ethnic representation on city councils, and skewed spending policies. The importance of turnout confirms long held suspicions about the under-representation of minorities and raises normative concerns about local democracy. Fortunately, this book offers a solution. Analysis of local participation indicates that a small change to local election timing - a reform that is cost effective and relatively easy to enact - could dramatically expand local voter turnout.

the vote and democracy
1. Where turnout should matter
2. Turnout could matter at the local level
3. Winners and losers in mayoral elections
4. Turnout and representation on city councils
5. Turnout and local government spending priorities
6. Raising voter turnout
7. The benefits of expanded participation

'This book mines some scholarly terrain that is, to our collective shame, most often ignored. And in this case, I'm convinced that Hajnal has struck gold. He challenges the conventional academic wisdom that varying levels of turnout in elections and, in particular, the 'problem' of low voter turnout isn't much of a problem at all. This conventional wisdom, he argues, misses a very important arena where turnout ought to matter: local elections. The differences between voters and non-voters not in preferences but in their racial and economic makeups should matter most at the local level, in part because the racial makeup of the electorate in most cities is more heterogeneous than the country as a whole, and also because turnout is typically lower in local elections. In fact, as Hajnal demonstrates clearly, local electorates are skewed in favor of the white, the well-educated, and the wealthy.' Paul Kellstedt, Texas A & M University